AMMAN, Jordan – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's older brother said Thursday that the family had anticipated the death of the notorious Al Qaeda in Iraq leader for some time.
"We anticipated that he would be killed for a very long time," Sayel al-Khalayleh told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Zarqa, the poor industrial town that Zarqawi called home and from which he derived his name.
"We expected that he would be martyred," he said, in a low voice, signaling his grief over the death of his brother, whose real name is Ahmed Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh.
"We hope that he will join other martyrs in heaven," he added.
In Zarqa, Zarqawi's three sisters, all dressed in black, arrived at the one-story family home looking grief stricken. Accompanied by a man who was the husband of one, the sisters declined to talk to reporters as they entered the house.
The husband, who identified himself as Abu Qudama, said: "We're not sad that he's dead."
"To the contrary, we're happy because he's a martyr and he's now in heaven," added the man, who said he lost one of his legs fighting Russian forces in Afghanistan as part of the Islamic Mujahedeen.
In front of the family house, a 13-year-old boy, who said he was Zarqawi's nephew, stared at a crush of reporters who had gathered there.
"I'm so sad about my uncle," said the boy, who identified himself as Omar.
He said the family heard the news of Zarqawi's death on Al-Jazeera satellite channel.
Other family members declined to come outside to speak to reporters, who knocked several times on their door.
In the wake of a triple hotel bombings in Amman last November, claimed by Al-Zarqawi's group, the family of the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader renounced him, telling King Abdullah II that they "severed links with him until doomsday."
In newspaper advertisements, 57 members of the al-Khalayleh family, including Zarqawi's same brother — Sayel — reiterated their strong allegiance to the king.
Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks on the three Amman-based Western hotels, which killed 63 people, including three Iraqi suicide bombers whom Zarqawi said he had sent them on a suicide mission to Jordan.
The bombings, which included an attack on a Jordanian-Palestinian Muslim wedding, sparked widespread outrage among Jordanians who had been sympathetic to insurgents battling the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Zarqawi's group has vowed more strikes in Jordan, a U.S. ally that signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and has been the target of several Al Qaeda terror plots because of its moderate stance and vocal criticism of extremist Islamic groups.
Jordan's State Security Court has sentenced Zarqawi to death in absentia three times for involvement in terror plots against his native country. One of the attacks was the assassination of U.S. aid official Laurence Foley, who was gunned down in Amman in 2002.
In the last two years, Zarqawi has been blamed for several failed terror plots in Jordan, including Aug. 19 missile strikes that narrowly missed two U.S. warships docked in the Red Sea port of Aqaba and another one involving a chemical attack on the Amman headquarters of the country's intelligence agency